ATM Networks -- Most major banks throughout the country have ATMs. In general, you can get cash with your debit card at any ATM provided your card is hooked into the MasterCard/Cirrus or Visa/PLUS network.
Business Hours -- Government offices (including branch post offices) are open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm, with a lunch break between noon and 1pm. Businesses are generally open 8am to 5pm. Shops often stay open from 8am until 7pm or later, 7 days a week. Department stores are generally open 10am to 8pm. Most TAT visitor centers are open daily from 8:30am to 4pm.
Drinking Laws -- The legal drinking age in Thailand is 20. You can readily buy and drink alcohol, even in supermarkets, but licensing laws apply, and drinks can be served only after 5pm. On some public holidays and election days, no liquor can be sold at all. Most restaurants, bars, and nightclubs sell booze, and you can pick up bottles of imported and local liquor from convenience stores. Nightspots must close at 1am (and the rule is being policed vigorously). Alcohol, hitherto readily sold over the counter anywhere, anytime, is now subject to strict licensing hours.
Drugstores -- Throughout the country, there are many drugstores stocked with brand-name medications and toiletries, plus less expensive local brands. Pharmacists often speak some English, and a number of drugs that require a prescription elsewhere can be dispensed over the counter.
Electricity -- All outlets -- except in some luxury hotels -- are 220 volts AC (50 cycles). Outlets have two flat-pronged or round-pronged holes, so you may need an adapter. If you use a 110-volt hair dryer, electric shaver, or battery charger for a computer, bring a transformer and an adapter.
Embassies & Consulates -- While most countries have consular representation in Bangkok, the United States, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom also have consulates in Chiang Mai. Most embassies have 24-hour emergency services. If you are seriously injured or ill, call your embassy for assistance.
In the United States, contact the Royal Thai Embassy, 1024 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Ste. 401, Washington, DC (tel. 202/944-3600; www.thaiembdc.org); The Permanent Mission of Thailand to the United Nations, 351 E. 52nd St., New York (tel. 212/754-2230); the Royal Thai Consulate-General, 611 N. Larchmont Blvd., 2nd Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90004 (tel. 323/962-9574; www.thai-la.net); or the Royal Thai Consulate-General, 700 N. Rush St., Chicago (tel. 312/664-3129; www.thaichicago.net); the Royal Thai Consulate-General, 351 E. 52nd St., New York(tel. 212/754-1770; www.thaiconsulnewyork.com).
In Canada, contact the Royal Thai Embassy, 180 Island Park Dr., Ottawa (tel. 613/722-4444; www.magma.ca/~thaiott/mainpage.htm); or the Royal Thai Embassy, 1040 Burrard St., Vancouver (tel. 604/687-1143; www.thaicongenvancouver.org).
In Australia, contact the Royal Thai Embassy, 111 Empire Circuit Yarralumla, Canberra (tel. 02/6206-0100; http://canberra.thaiembassy.org); or the Royal Thai Consulate-General, Level 8, 131 Macquarie St. Sydney(tel. 02/9241-2542; www.thaiconsulatesydney.org).
In New Zealand, contact the Royal Thai Embassy, 2 Cook St., Karori, Wellington (tel. 644/476-8618; www.thaiembassynz.org.nz).
In the United Kingdom, contact the Royal Thai Embassy, 29-30 Queen's Gate, London SW7 5JB (tel. 020/7589-2944; www.thaiembassyuk.org.uk).
Emergencies -- Throughout the country, the emergency number you should use is tel. 1699 or 1155 for the Tourist Police. Don't expect many English speakers at police posts outside the major tourist areas. Ambulances must be summoned from hospitals rather than through a central service. You can also contact your embassy or consulate.
Internet Access -- You'll find Wi-Fi in many public spaces and all major hotels in Thailand.
Language -- Central (often called Bangkok) Thai is the official language. English is spoken in the major cities at hotels, some restaurants, and a few smart shops, and is the second language of the professional class.
Police -- The Tourist Police (tel. 1699 or 1155), with offices in every city, speak English (and other foreign languages) and are open 24 hours. You should call them in an emergency rather than the regular police because there is no guarantee that police operators will speak English.
Restrooms -- The country's better restaurants and hotels will have Western toilets. Shops and budget hotels will have an Asian squat toilet, a ceramic platform mounted over a hole in the ground. Near the toilet is a water bucket or sink with a small ladle. The water is for flushing the toilet. Toilet paper is not provided, but some have tissue dispensers outside the restroom costing 5B. Dispose of it in the wastebasket provided, as it will clog up rudimentary sewage systems.
Smoking -- Thailand bans smoking in public places, such as restaurants and airports. Some bars that don't serve food can get away with smokers, or have created smoker-friendly outdoor spaces, including upmarket private cigar bars. If in doubt, ask about nonsmoking sections. A few years ago, the former Prime Minister Thaksin prohibited the display of cigarettes anywhere. They are still sold but cannot appear on shelves -- you'll have to ask.
Taxes & Service Charges -- Hotels charge a 7% government value-added tax (VAT) and typically add a 10% service charge; hotel restaurants add 8.25% government tax. Smaller hotels quote the price inclusive of these charges.
Time Zone -- Thailand is 7 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). During winter months, this means that Bangkok is 7 hours ahead of London, 12 hours ahead of New York, and 15 hours ahead of Los Angeles. Daylight saving time will add 1 hour to these times.
Tipping -- If no service charge is added to your check in a fine-dining establishment, a 10% to 15% tip is appropriate. In local shops, tipping is not common. Airport or hotel porters expect tips; 50B is acceptable. Feel free to reward good service wherever you find it. Tipping taxi drivers is appreciated. Carry small bills, as many cab drivers either don't have change or won't admit to having any in the hope of getting a tip.
Visitor Information & Maps Tourist Authority of Thailand -- (TAT; www.tourismthailand.org) is an extensive site with information on locations throughout Thailand. However, its listings are often incorrect or out-of-date.
Water -- Don't drink the tap water here, even in the major hotels. Most hotels provide bottled water; use it for brushing your teeth as well as drinking. Most restaurants serve bottled or boiled water and ice made from boiled water, but always ask to be sure. Purified water may not have the minerals you need to replace those lost in the heat and humidity, so check the label.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.